The underlying theme throughout most of Atlanta Grand Hu$tle rapper B.o.B.’s third album, Underground Luxury, seems to be frustration. Despite numerous hit records under his belt, B.o.B., still feels a level of disconnect with his audience, as he laments on tracks like “FlyMuthafucka” or “Back Me Up”, which find him fending off “haters” at every turn. What is it about Bobby Ray that people just don’t like?
It seems that B.o.B. has a handful of fair-weather fans. There are three moments on this album that we all recognize, and likely know the words too, and happily sing along to on the weekends, after midnight. It began with the Mike Will Made It produced anthem, “We Still In This Bitch”, which launched 2013, then followed with the Mustard & 2 Chainz helmed “Headband”. He struck lightning a third time with “Ready”, driven by Future’s infectious hook, with all three tracks making a strong case for B.o.B. being a rapper that for all intents and purposes, everyone should like.
But maybe what the problem is, is that these hit records – like “Nothin’ On You” with Bruno Mars before it – are driven by their guest appearances. Bob does an admirable job at holding his own next to his peers, yet deep down it feels like this ultimately not the kind of music that he wants to make. Further backing up that case is much of the rest of the material on Underground Luxury.
Its hard to feel sympathetic to Bob’s plight, when he opens the album with the money-grubbing “All I Want”, and then follows with the fame-seeking “One Day”. The latter highlights his ability to make catchy, singable songs, yet it all seems so shallow. Thankfully, he uses his platform to actually say something on “Paper Route”, in perhaps the album’s most honest moment: “They’ll aim at everyone going against this shit / You don’t believe me? Look what happened to the Dixie Chicks / It’s like nobody else complains / Till you tryna be more than a n***a with a chain / Cube already told you, they corrupted everything / And we these out here just tryna function, tryna maintain.”
Perhaps the main problem with Underground Luxury is that Bobby Ray simply just spreads himself too thin. He racks up street appeal with couch-standing anthems like the aforementioned “Ready” and “We Still In This Bitch”, yet it’s unlikely those fans will be able to get with poppier, “inspirational” songs like “Nobody Told Me”, “Coastline”, and the god-awful crossover attempt “John Doe”. He tries, but he just can’t please all of the people, all of the time.
The end result is an album that just doesn’t know what it wants to be. Perhaps there are many, multi-faceted levels to B.o.B.’s personality, but he loses the crowd in attempting to show them all here.
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